Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italyby Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, Silvano Serventi
Perhaps a pumpkin soup to start, and sugared dumplings; for the fish course, sole poached in bitter oranges, or, for the more daring palate, grilled brochettes of eel; the main course and piéce de résistance will be the roast wild boar in spiced sauce, with saffron asparagus, minced leeks, and fresh herbed fava beans as accompaniments; and for/i>… See more details below
Perhaps a pumpkin soup to start, and sugared dumplings; for the fish course, sole poached in bitter oranges, or, for the more daring palate, grilled brochettes of eel; the main course and piéce de résistance will be the roast wild boar in spiced sauce, with saffron asparagus, minced leeks, and fresh herbed fava beans as accompaniments; and for dessert, an elegant apple mousse in almond milk.
This is but a taste of The Medieval Kitchen, a delightful and enticing work in which historians, Sabban, Serventi, and Redon rescue from dark obscurity the glorious cuisine of the Middle Ages. Much maligned and falsely derided, medieval gastronomy turns out to have been superb--a wonderful mélange of flavor, aroma, and color, a cuisine both delicate and grand. Expertly reconstructed from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century sources and carefully adapted to suit the modern kitchen, these recipes set before us a veritable feast of rich potages and savory tourtes, rustic pätés and garden vegetables, fish and game, and a delicious array of sauces, sweets, and confections fine enough to make a pastry chef blush with envy.
More than a mere cookbook, The Medieval Kitchen vividly depicts the context and tradition of authentic medieval cookery. Culture and cuisine become thoroughly entwined, informing and transforming one another. Etiquette at table and the aesthetics of the meal, the seasonal variations evidenced in feast days and fast days, the foods of the city and the country as well, the diets of the rich and the poor, and the ingenious methods and techniques employed in medieval culinary arts--all this is brought to scholarly light and generously proffered for our hearty consumption. Eminently learned and gracious in their hospitality, Sabban, Serventi, and Redon invite us to savor with them the culinary treasures of a rare and distant age.
"To open this book is to set your mouth watering. You will grow hungry just scanning the table of contents and coming across dishes such as Bourbelier (Roast Wild Boar in Spiced Sauce), San Vincenzo's Day Grilled Eel, or Chicken Ambrogino with Dried Fruit. For the reader, the rich, subtle language of the recipes in this book will be a feast in itself; it will fill you with a sense of well-being."--from the preface by Georges Duby
"A quite exceptional book, dedicated to cooking in the Middle Ages, which it has long been fashionable to dub as ignoble . . . It is fascinating to realize that cooking had existed, and how it had existed, in that era and that it is not so dated [a way of cooking] when one takes a closer look. I would even argue that in our time we would do well to rediscover these surprising dishes."--Le Nouvel Observateur
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The Medieval Kitchen
Recipes from France and Italy
By Odile Redon Francoise Sabban Silvano Serventi
University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2003
University of Chicago
All right reserved.
31. Chicken with Fennel
Chicken with fennel
Take the chickens,
cut them up, fry
them, and when
they are fried add
the quantity of
water you prefer;
then take "beards"
of fennel, "beards"
of parsley, and
almonds that have
not been skinned;
and chop these
things well, mix
them with the
liquid from the
chickens, and boil
pass through a
sieve. Add it to the
chickens, and add
the best spices you
This chicken recipe, with its tan and green sauce and its subtle
flavor of fennel, is remarkable. It is another light dish that would
not be out of place on the most inventive of modern menus.
1 free-range chicken
2/3 cup (100 g) unblanched
a handful of fennel or dill
a handful of parsley
2 cups (1/2 liter) water
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine spices
2 tablespoons lard or oil
Cut the chicken into serving pieces and pat dry. Melt the lard in
acasserole over medium-high heat and brown the chicken. When it is
golden brown, add the water and salt to taste. Lower the heat and
simmer, covered, for 40 to 45 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, wash and thoroughly dry the herbs. Grind the almonds
finely in a blender or food processor, then add the herbs and blend
to a paste.
Remove the chicken from the casserole and keep it warm in a very
low oven, covered loosely with aluminum foil.
Add the almond mixture to the casserole and reduce over medium
heat until the sauce has thickened.
Arrange the chicken on a serving platter and strain the sauce
over the chicken. Sprinkle with the spices to taste and serve.
150. Spice Mixture
Fine Spice Mixture
Fine spices for all foods
Take an onza of
pepper and one of
cinnamon and one
of ginger, and half
a quarter [onza] of
cloves and a
quarter of saffron.
It is a good idea to have this mixture ready for those times when
you feel like cooking medieval. The text edited by Frati is from the
Venice region, but not necessarily from Venice itself, so we cannot
be sure of the exact equivalent of the oncia, or onza in the usage
of the source. We have done our best, however, to retain the correct
2 rounded tablespoons freshly
ground black pepper (16g)
2 rounded tablespoons
ground cinnamon (16g)
2 rounded tablespoons
ground ginger (16g)
11/2 tablespoons saffron
threads, loosely measured,
crushed to a powder in a
mortar or with your fingers
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
68. Inside-Out Stuffed Fresh Sardines or Anchovies
Stuffed anchovies and sardines
To stuff anchovies
or sardines, put
them in hot water
removed the heads
and bones so that
they are open
along the back.
saffron, and the
flesh of a few fish.
Fill the anchovies
or sardines with
this stuffing so that
the skin is next to
the stuffing and the
outside in. Then fry
them in oil. They
may be eaten with
In your wildest culinary dreams did you ever imagine opening a fish
from the back, removing the bones and head without piercing the
belly skin, spreading the skin with a stuffing, and closing the fish
so that the flesh is on the outside, and then frying it? Yet this is
what the author of this recipe suggests-and other writers as well.
Maestro Martino splits a suckling pig along the backbone, turns it
inside out like a sock, and then roasts it (see recipe 50); an eel
is renversee in Le Menagier de Paris, or rovesciata in Italian
sources, then cooked flesh-side out.
The recipe we have chosen here uses the same intimidating
technique, but in this case for a rather smaller creature. Fish are
often hard to identify on the basis of their names, which even today
vary from region to region. In Nordic regions, it is generally
herrings that go by the Latin name of allex or hallex. This and
other recipes in the Liber de coquina link the terms allectes and
sarde or sardelle; medieval Latin uses a number of words derived
from allex and allicium for small fish of all kinds; modern Italian
uses alice for anchovy: for all these reasons, we have adapted this
recipe for sardines and anchovies. We believe that sardines were
sold lightly salted to keep them better; this would explain why the
recipe instructs us to place them in warm water before removing
their heads and bones.
It is hard to know what benefits medieval cooks would have seen
in a preparation of this kind, but it is certainly true that fatty
flesh (and this inside-out technique is used only for suckling pig
and fatty fish) will render some of its fat when exposed to direct
heat. And the results are excellent from the standpoint of flavor.
We have not been entirely faithful to the original recipe: we
remove the head and bones from the fish without soaking them in hot
water, which would be pointless-indeed harmful-for fresh fish.
24 whole sardines or large
anchovies, not cleaned by the
10 ounces (300 g) boneless
meat of fatty fish such as
sardines, herring, or mackerel
1 teaspoon chopped fresh
marjoram or oregano (or half
as much dried)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh
rosemary (or half as much
2 leaves sage, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground
3 or 4 threads saffron,
2 tablespoons olive oil
lemon wedges to serve
Using a thin-bladed, extremely sharp knife, cut into the back of
each sardine or anchovy, cutting along either side of the backbone
to free the backbone from the rib cage. At the same time remove the
heads and the innards, being careful not to pierce the skin. This
will yield 2 fillets joined by the skin of the belly.
With a pair of good tweezers remove the most obvious rib bones.
Remaining bones will be very visible when the fish has been cooked
and can be removed easily by each diner.
Wash the fish thoroughly and dry them with paper towels. Sprinkle
them inside and out with salt and pepper and set them aside while
you prepare the stuffing.
For the stuffing, puree the fish flesh, herbs, spices, and salt
to taste in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate,
along with the filleted fish, if you are not going to continue
immediately; if your kitchen is warm, keep the stuffing on ice as
It will be easier to stuff the fish if you sew each one partially
closed, to form a pocket, skin-side in, flesh-side out. Stuff the
fish and complete sewing each one up the back, leaving a little
stuffing protruding from where the head used to be. To make this
process even easier, put the stuffing into a piping bag with a
small, plain tube, and pipe the stuffing into each fish.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet, preferably
nonstick. Saute the fish for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, then cover
the pan, lower the heat, and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
Before serving, insert a knife into one of the fish and make sure
the stuffing is cooked through.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve garnished with additional
95. Crustless "Sienese" Tart
pound them as fine
as possible. Then
take half a libra of
sugar, twelve eggs,
and a fogletta
[about a cup] of
milk, two quatani
of cinnamon, and
the proper amount
of salt, and half a
quarto of fresh
pounded until it
need be pounded
no more. Then
spread a mold with
butter, and then
flour it, and put the
mixture on top. And
set the mold or pan
far from the fire,
covered, with a
moderate fire. And
note that you can
put into the mixture
a ladleful of
lasagne cooked in
good broth. And
when it is cooked,
put sugar and rose
water on top.
We chose this recipe because it is the only one in any of our
sources to be called "Sienese." Although it is called a tartara,
like many pies and tarts in this Neapolitan collection, it is very
similar to a crustless flan or quiche. We can find nothing like it
in the cooking of modern Siena, and, as we have noted (see recipe
8), provatura cheese comes from southern Italy.
10 almonds, blanched
scant 1/2 cup (80 g) sugar
1 cup (1/4 liter) milk
2 tablespoons cream cheese,
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch salt
For the topping
3 tablespoons (5 cl) rose
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).
Grind the almonds in a clean spice or coffee grinder, or in a
blender, together with the sugar and cinnamon. Place the ground
almonds and sugar into a bowl; beat in the softened cheese, then the
eggs one by one, and the milk. Taste the mixture and add salt as
Butter and flour a 6-inch (15-cm) souffle dish or other ovenproof
mold, and pour in the mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes and set
aside to cool.
When cool, you may unmold it (carefully: it is fragile) or serve
it from the dish. Before serving, sprinkle with sugar and rose
103. Summertime Cerulean Blue Sauce
Sky-blue sauce for summer
Take some of the
that grow in
with a little ginger.
And moisten these
things with verjuice
and strain through
Toward the end of summer, when blackberries are at their best, this
cerulean blue sauce will add zest to your September meat dinners.
The pectin in the berries helps the sauce set to a lovely
midnight-blue jelly that is a visual foil and a delicious
accompaniment to white meats such as veal and chicken.
1 quart (1 liter) blackberries
1/3 cup (50 g) unblanched
2/3 cup verjuice, or a mixture
of two parts cider vinegar to
one part water
1/4-inch slice ginger, peeled
Puree the blackberries in a food processor or food mill, and strain
the juice, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. In a
mortar or in a blender, grind the almonds and ginger, then mix with
the blackberry juice. Contact with the air will turn the mixture a
Add the verjuice and strain once more. Season with salt to taste.
122. Orange Omelette for Harlots and Ruffians
How to make an orange omelette
Take eggs and
break them, with
oranges, as many
as you like; squeeze
their juice and add
to it the eggs with
sugar; then take
olive oil or fat, and
heat it in the pan
and add the eggs.
This was for
ruffians and brazen
Johannes Bockenheim (or Buckehen) was cook to Pope Martin V and in
the 1430s wrote a brief but highly original cookbook recently edited
by Bruno Laurioux (see bibliography). This German, who lived at
Rome, wrote as a professional, with telegraphic terseness and little
detail; yet he was careful to specify the destined consumer of each
recipe, pigeon-holed by social class-from prostitutes to princes-or
by nationality: Italian, French, German from any of various
provinces, and so forth.
We cannot see why this omelette, which contains no meat and no
seasoning other than sugar, should be particularly well suited to
debauchees. Surely, it is flesh (further fired by spices) that
enflames the flesh. This omelette can be safely tasted without
running the risk of moral turpitude.
Since medieval oranges were bitter, we suggest a blend of oranges
and lemons. The sugar and the acidity of the juice prevent the eggs
from completely setting, so this is more of a custardy cream that
makes an unusual and very pleasant dessert.
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice the oranges and the lemon. Beat the eggs, add the juice, the
sugar, and salt to taste, and cook the omelette in olive oil. Serve
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by Odile Redon Francoise Sabban Silvano Serventi
Copyright © 2003 by University of Chicago.
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